Youth Group BBQ

We’ve just got back from the Youth Group end of year BBQ. Moreso than in previous years it was an evening of beginnings and endings. As in previous years the year 6’s (top year of junior school in old money) came along. In addition our new rector-to-be came along to meet all the youth group for the first time. But this year we had a goodbye as Louise, who has gone all the way through the Youth Group and helped us out as a leader during her gap year this year is going off around the world, and then to University in the autumn. As a thank you for all the work she has put in, and to remind her of her time with the youth group we gave her a present, a certificate that all the other youth group members signed, and Beth baked her a cake (which she is posting details of elsewhere).

As you can see, as with the Taizé BBQ last week we had fine weather before, fine weather afterwards, but whilst we were trying to BBQ, it bucketed down, hence the effort to put up the waterproof cover in double-quick time. (Apologies if Roland is reading this and wondering why he had to make do with an umbrella – we didn’t know about the waterproof, apparently two were bought after the last washout BBQ at the church!)

Anyway, enjoy the pictures. As always, if anyone wants full size copies, drop us an e-mail and we can get them printed out for you.

Canadiana – The Vinyl Cafe stories

It must be the proximity to Canada Day, but I feel rather nostalgic for all things Canadian at the moment. Flipping through my reading journal, I came across an entry for a rather good collection of stories by a broadcaster on the CBC called Stuart McLean. He has a radio show called Vinyl Cafe, and one of the weekly features is a new tale about a regular family to which sometimes irregular things happen. These people, Dave, Morley, Stephanie, Sam, Galway the cat and Arthur the dog, have become neighbours and friends to those who listen to McLean’s weekend radio show. And it’s not just that these stories will make you howl with laughter (listening to Dave Cooks the Turkey almost made me drive off the road one Christmas holiday), they also make you think about how much you value your own family, because they love each other so very much, imperfections and all.

I think what makes them so funny, and so touching, is the closeness of the observations of their daily lives. It makes you look at your own life, and think, ‘Do I really do anything quite so ridiculous as that?’, to which the answer is, ‘Of course I do. I just didn’t look at it that way before.’ For example, Dave has perfectly good reasons for wanting to toilet train the cat (as anyone who has experienced letting a cat in and out of the house in the dead of night during a Canadian winter will know), but observed by McLean, his efforts are incredible at times, but also endearing because they are, well, quite logical when you think about it. And although Morley is, in many ways, a long-suffering wife she also has some quirks. What mother can’t identify with the envy she feels when faced with someone else’s ‘perfect’ children? And what mother does not then feel the urge to make her own offspring perfect? The paper plates and glued-down corners of bedsheets which result are her own fault…

One of the things that amazes me about McLean’s writing is his ability to pick up on a deatil of someone’s life and then change the course of the story so that the detail is just the start of a much larger adventure for the main characters. The story which starts with Dave toilet training the cat is actually about Brenda, Dave’s cousin, and not really about Dave’s struggle with Galway at all. It does not surprise me at all that McLean now teaches writing at a university in Toronto.

Unfortunately, I only own one of the collections of these wonderful stories, but there are now four. All of them are available in Canada, of course, but I could only find two on Amazon.co.uk. Please read them – they are warmhearted stories that are sure to leave you feeling better after a hard day.

Home from the Vinyl Cafe: A Year of Stories ( Stuart McLean)

Stories from the Vinyl Cafe (Stuart McLean)

Reflecting on friends (not Friends…)

Just been checking my email, as now that I’ve got a laptop from work and my husband has thoughtfully (and rather gleefully, I might add) installed a wireless network in our house, I don’t actually get upstairs to check my email as often as I should nowadays. And I just want to thank all of my friends who have been kind-hearted and generous enough to keep emailing me when there has been a singular lack of communication from my side of the conversation. Most especially, but not exclusively, Pene, a friend in Australia who has emailed me regularly over several years without many replies, and Tanya, a fellow teacher and immigrant to the UK who’s just as bogged down as I am with end of the year marking crap, and still finds the time to send out cheery (and often hilarious) greetings. I think I’m feeling especially guilty because both of these lovely ladies are also raising children, while I just have to look after the hubby and an occasionally stroppy moggy…

Friends are important to everyone, and I dont think we realise how important they are until you are in a situation where you are cut off from your friends for one reason or another. I found this out when I moved to the UK four years ago. Even though I had (and still have) several amazing friends who helped me through the transition, most of them (all really, save one, and he’s now my hubby) were in Canada. I felt really isolated and alone for the first few weeks, especially on the first day when I got up and realised that a) I was out of toothpaste, b) I didn’t know where to go to buy any, and c) I didn’t know who to call to find out! I mean, there’s only so many stupid questions you can ask your boyfriend before he really gives up on you! (Thank goodness I knew when to stop asking! 😉 ) I must say that my landlady, Julie, was also incredible, as she had an amazing store of knowledge about the most incredible things, and was perfectly willing to go to battle with BT on my behalf when it was going to take 3 weeks to get the phone hooked up, etc. (Note – the phone hookup took 3 days. She really should work for a lobby group…)

So, thank you everyone who supported me though that difficult time, and thank you also to everyone who still hasn’t given up hope that I will, someday, actually reply to any emails that they have sent me. I will get around to it!

Someday.

If I EVER get this marking done…

It’s Canada Day!!

Canada Flag

For those who don’t know, July 1 is Canada Day! What’s it all about, you may ask? Isn’t it the same as July 4th in the States?? In fact, no, and here’s why…

(Ahem. Just putting on my pontificating historian voice…)

July 1, 1867. Canada woke up a colony of the British Empire, and went to sleep a country in its own right. This was the day on which a rather drunken Scot, John A. Macdonald, became our first Prime Minister. Now, this is different to Independance Day in the US, because of what it symbolizes. Canada Day (formerly known as Dominion Day) celebrates a continuing, but different relationship with Britain and the Empire (or Commonwealth, as it is known today). Independance Day in the States is the day that they celebrate kicking the British out of their country. Slightly different ethos there. However, both countries take it as an opportunity for a good party, as both are statuatory holidays and are full of patriotic fervor.

So today, pull out those maple leaves, put on something red and white and listen to a great Canadian musician, read a great Canadian author, watch some great Canadian actors, or look at some great Canadian art today. Here are some suggestions:

Music:
Bryan Adams
Shania Twain
Barenaked Ladies
Blue Rodeo
Jann Arden

Authors:
Margaret Atwood
Robertson Davies
Stephen Leacock
Timothy Findlay
Margaret Laurence

Artists:
Emily Carr
Robert Bateman
The Group of Seven

Actors:
Mike Myers
Dan Ackroyd
Pamela Andersen
Megan Follows
Fay Wray

You could also read some stuff by a mate ‘o’ mine, another displaced Canadian, Carla. She’s got a blog called Across the Pond.

Or, if you’re in London, join the celebrations at The Maple Leaf pub

You could even buy Canadian products at the online Canada Shop in the UK.

Pictures of School

For those of you who haven’t visited me yet, here’s some pictures of my classroom. It’s usually a lot busier than this! I have 10 computers in my room because I’m the ICT coordiator for the department. These computers, plus 8 in the adjoining library (through the wooden doors) are the ‘computer lab’ for the English department. The state of my desk is a bit worse than normal – end of the year and all that…